A touch of Mediterranean at the Edinburgh Film Festival
Annalisa Salis - 28/07/2009
El Habre had been working on his film project idea since 2006. In a country that does not provide public funding to cinema the director – who is also scriptwriter, editor and co-producer - concluded his work in the 2008 and has screened it at the Dubai International Film Festival 2008 and the Berlin International Film Festival 2009, also thanks to the support of the Beirut DC Cooperative and the Dubai Film Connection.
Defined by the EIFF as “a labour of love”, the film is a 86 minutes long documentary about the life of El Habre’s elderly uncle, Semaan El Habre, who happens to be the only inhabitant of the tiny Christian village of Ain El Hazaroun, near Beirut.
As a consequence of the civil war 1975 – 1990 the place is reduced to be a bunch of empty houses. Their wreck walls are downgraded to simply recall the memories of their previous inhabitants and of the protagonist, who stubbornly refused to live in another place.
Through a series of interviews and some interesting scenes, shot throughout a whole year, the documentary shows the everyday life of the protagonist: the daily work of milking his moody cows, the harvest in summer, the friends’ visits, the Easter lunch.
Given the title of the film and its plot, someone that has not watched it yet might think that this is a documentary about loneliness. But what it is interesting about this work is actually its extraordinary capacity of establishing a relationship with its audience. The protagonist naturally achieves the empathy of the spectator, who is led to share his wit as well as his bitterest memories. His living in a solitary village wounded by the war, does not make him a misanthrope or a diverse, but on the contrary it highlights his great humanity.
As the film goes towards its end, with a camera set on the back of a car and showing the growing distance from El Habre’s uncle home, the sensation that is left is the well known feeling everyone experiences when they have just paid a visit to an old good friend, with a touch of peacefulness and homesickness.